- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2010

President Obama on Thursday announced that he and the first family will visit India early in November.

The Obama administration went out of its way this week to assure India that it is committed to its relationship with the rising Asian power and is not distracted by problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama broke with protocol by attending a reception at the State Department for India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Thursday evening.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the president personally had taken the initiative to attend Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s reception for the Indian minister to underscore the importance he places in the U.S.-India relationship.

Mr. Obama said there was no doubt in his mind that he had to make a trip to India. “I am proud to go to India,” he said.

There is a prevalent sense in India that the Obama administration has been less attentive to the relationship and is more focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mrs. Clinton also sought to address those concerns, describing the U.S.-India relationship as “an affair of the heart, not just of the head.”

But she noted the unease in India, saying it is important to “frankly address doubts that remain on both sides. Doubts among some Indians that the United States only sees India, or mainly sees India, in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or that we will hasten our departure from Afghanistan leaving India to deal with the aftermath.”

She added that there were doubts in the U.S. that “India has not fully embraced its role in regional and global affairs, or will not make the economic reforms needed to foster additional progress.”

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Krishna participated in the first U.S.-India strategic dialogue on Thursday.

Earlier, Mr. Krishna made a strong pitch for access for Indian investigators to David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American who has admitted to helping Lashkar-e-Taiba plan the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

A team of Indian investigators is in the U.S. awaiting access to Headley, who is locked up in a Chicago prison.

“Access for our authorities to persons who have been apprehended by your government in connection with Mumbai terror attack is the logical next step” in the partnership between the U.S. and India, Mr. Krishna said.

In a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan, Mr. Krishna described “India’s neighborhood” as the “epicenter” of transnational terrorism and, citing the case of the Times Square bomber, said this is a threat not only to India but the U.S. as well.

He also sought to direct U.S. attention to security challenges, particularly the threat posed by transnational terrorism.

“Though the epicenter of this threat lies in India’s neighborhood, it reaches far and wide all across the world as we have seen time and again and most recently a few weeks back in Times Square,” he said.

Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani American, has been arrested in connection with the failed Times Square bombing plot.

U.S. officials publicly express frustration with Pakistan’s selective campaign against terrorist groups. While acknowledging Pakistan’s effort, they say this does not target groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban that pose threats to India, Afghanistan and to some extent the U.S.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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